"It's all the same" detractors lamented, unwilling to entertain something they did not understand. "It's just a DJ," "it's not real music," "they're just pushing buttons;" these are the ignorant pre-conceived notions that have dominated the hivemind. But now in 2013, the year of the rave, we're finding that some of the same people are lining up just because they heard Avicii's "Levels" and now they need to hear it "live." And while we do truly do love our DJs, we're fans of live music, too. So if you're looking to really see what electronic music is about and see some live instrumentation, here are the ten live acts you need to check out at this year's Ultra Music Festival.
I'm sure you've heard the term "God Is A DJ" but what you might not know is that's a song from UK electronic band Faithless. With over 15 million records sold, Faithless represents an era past us by, peaking during the late-'90s as part of the electronica craze. After disappearing for a while, they've come back for this special occasion. UMF founder and CEO Russel Faibisch said, “For our 15-year anniversary, it was important for us to have some anchors in legendary live electronic acts. They stopped playing for awhile, but they’re coming back out to play for our anniversary. The significance of what it means... we’re both excited about it". So you might be a newbie to this music but do yourself a favor and go get an education with these guys. You won't regret it.
Being a graduate of Brown University is far from the norm in EDM. Yes, DAD pal and Hot Mom USA chief Shiftee was a Harvard Math grad, too, but Nicolas Jaar isn't using his skills to make the finest cuts and scratches. Instead he brings his own "blue-wave" style that has already won him accolades and praise around the world. Bringing his sounds to the prestigious Essential Mix, Mr. Jaar won the high honor of "Radio 1's Essential Mix Of The Year 2012." With nine EPs and a studio album under his belt, the comparative literature act is going to give you unique sound that you can't miss. A darling of deep house, like other acts on this list, he'll give you that new groove.
Live EDM isn't just about snarling basses and sky high vocals, but sometimes it's just about a deep groove. German band Booka Shade has released on labels around the world and they've been through this rodeo before. Mixing their own unique blend of deep house, tech house, and electronica, the group has released four albums to date and will definitely bring the beats. It's understandable that the minimal side of things can be seen as pretentious and repetitive, but catch these guys and you'll "understand" in a whole new way. The intricacies of sound design, the groove, the feeling, you won't stop dancing.
The funny thing about electronic music that many people listen to it, but they don't even know it. Downtempo is one of those things. Perhaps better for the home stereo and a pair of quality headphones, Washington D.C. based duo Thievery Corporation is one of the best and brightest. Don't know what I mean? Their Wikipedia page describes them as a mix of dub, acid jazz, reggae, Indian classical, Middle Eastern, and Brazilian (such as bossa nova). Acts like Thievery Coroporation really do show that the UMF is not a one-trick pony and that they aren't scared to bring in an act that might not be a blog dominator or is all that commercial. If you're needing a break from the booming bass and/or want to expand your musical horizons, you absolutely have to see these guys. Lucky for you, they're playing both weekends.
UK drum & bass band Rudimental is one of the few acts out their bringing us those breakbeats with live instrumentaition. They have collaborated with singers like Alex Care, received big time UK radio play, and we're anxiously awaiting their upcoming debut album (which is set to be released in April). It's not that crazy that they are a live band, but considering the nature of drum & bass it'll be quite the scene to see them play those riff and hit those drum breaks. Live drum & bass is a sight to see and could be the set that opens you up to a whole new world of EDM.
Sir Cornenlius Bob Rifo and company might be the most "surface" name on this entire list, but that doesn't mean you should skip them. They make blistering electro house but they do it with a punk sensibility that translates into one of the best and most energetic live shows in all of live music. Venom masks complete with sport jackets, you might not know what's up with them, but the music is what's iimportant here. I dare you to go to their set during the second weekend and come away unsatisfied. If you can't get into this, you need to check your pulse.
He's not just one half of Skrillex's side project Dog Blood, but he's also a wrecking force of his own. The Berlin native has been one of the most prominent names in techno/electro circles ever since his debut album Oi Oi OI in 2007, regularly touring the world and headling festivals. Now with release of his most recent album, Out of The Black, he's stepped away from the decks to bring a live show.
They are one of the hottest names in 2013 and they're just hitting the US market on a large-scale. Chinstrokers and UK natives will already know them from their hits like "White Noise" and "Latch," but this will be a welcoming party in many ways. In the midst of their live tour, Disclosure will bring their unique fusion of garage, house, and R&B to the big time.
Perhaps the originator of the dubstep band, Modestep first burst on to the global scene with their huge hit "Sunlight," and has gone from that to touring the world with their unique band setup. Most live electronic bands will have a house sound, but these guys are all about the heavy bass and broken beats. While we don't necessarily agree with the Pendulum and Prodigy comparisons, we do know that they do bring one heck of a show. They released their debut album Evolution Theory earlier this month and it brings a heavy whomp. The quartet's live show is not all that different from a punk show and you know that means it's going to be a ride.
AZARI & III
Toronto might be more known for acts like deadmau5 and the bassheads like Zeds Dead, but Azari & III is another one worth checking out. At once melding the soulful taste of chicago house with a futuristic disco sound and garage thrown in too, it's no wonder they've played festivals like Glastonbury, Sonar, and Lovebox. Check out their singles “Hungry for the Power” and “Reckless (With Your Love),” and you'll get a feel for the sound I'm talking about. They have done an Essential Mix, they've got an EP coming out on Dim Mak entitled Lost In Time (this spring!), and I can already tell you it's awesome. I've already tried to give an understanding but you'll have to see these guys live to get a good taste.
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